“Never a dull moment for the Boston Bruins lately,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said to Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley following Boston’s 3-2 win over the hated Montreal Canadiens Saturday night.
It’s true. The injury-plagued Bruins are in the midst of one of their toughest stretches of the season without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo or Urho Vaakanainen. Yet, they’re still finding ways to produce points and stay afloat in a loaded Atlantic Division race.
Boston sits two points in back of the Maple Leafs entering Monday’s showdown. The Leafs have a few notable absences as well in the form of Auston Matthews (shoulder injury) and William Nylander (contract dispute). But Toronto’s potent attack — led by John Tavares, Mitch Marner and blue-line standout Morgan Reilly — is always a threat no matter who is on the ice.
The Bruins, behind Jaroslav Halak’s effort and David Pastrnak’s hat trick kept the Leafs’ fourth-ranked offense (3.5 goals per game) in check during their 5-1 win over their Original Six on Nov. 10. Halak returns between the pipes as Pastrnak hopes to end his five-game goal drought.
Unlike the previous meeting, the Bruins won’t have Chara and Bergeron. The task of keeping Tavares and company off the board in front of the Leafs faithful becomes even more difficult Monday night.
Brad Marchand-Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson-David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen-David Krejci-Jake DeBrusk
Anders Bjork-Joakim Nordstrom-Noel Acciari
Chris Wagner-Colby Cave-David Backes
John Moore-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Connor Clifton
Matt Grzelcyk-Jeremy Lauzon
Maple Leafs projected lines
Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau-Nazem Kadri-Kasperi Kapanen
Andreas Johnsson-Par Lindholm-Connor Brown
Tyler Ennis-Frederik Gauthier-Josh Leivo
Morgan Reilly-Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner-Martin Marincin
Travis Dermott-Igor Ozhiganov
Bruins-Maple Leafs storylines
Anders Bjork will likely return to the lineup after watching the Bruins’ last two games from the press box. (Angela Spagna, Bruins Daily)
– The Bruins are got a little more production from their bottom-six during their Thanksgiving weekend back-to-back. Both Joakim Nordstrom (OT winner against the Penguins) and David Backes (notching his first of the season in Montreal the next night) scored timely goals to spark the Black and Gold’s pair of wins. But Cassidy is never afraid to throw in a tweak and he’ll do that with Anders Bjork likely replacing Sean Kuraly. Bjork is getting decent scoring chances, but the Bruins need to see more out of the former Notre Dame standout who has a goal and two assists in 19 games.
– David Pastrnak has no qualms about his 6-year contract worth $6.66 million anually that he signed last year. The Bruins would like to see him breakthrough again on the scoresheet, though. His five-game goal drought paved way for Patrik Laine and Jeff Skinner to take over the top two spots in the Rocket Richard race. Dealing with a makeshift lineup in Bergeron’s absence has dampened Pastrnak’s production for sure. Getting the 2014 first rounder back on track — along with Brad Marchand — is key as the battered and bruised B’s continue their tough road ahaed.
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